Guest Post: New Year’s Resolution- Plan Your Estate!

checklist-01I love a good set of New Year’s Resolutions. New Year’s Day might be my favorite holiday of the year – all about fresh starts, new goals, big plans! I like to think of a single word that will be my Theme for the Year. 2013’s theme was “health” – I wanted to get back in shape and feel healthier. 2014’s word was “simplify” – I needed to get back to the basics and cut out all the extraneous things taking up my time. 2015’s word was actually two words: “nourish the margin.” I wanted to give myself space in my day to make healthier choices. In 2016, I chose two words again: “routine” and “budget.” (And then I had my third baby and that train went right off the tracks, but I digress…)

For 2017, my theme is a phrase: “Slow Down And Focus.” I want to make more meaningful personal connections with my family and friends, and stop spending so much time multitasking with that horrible, dinging, time-sucking screen we all carry around in our pockets. I want to bring back the art of conversation and the joy of handwritten correspondence! (Of course, as I type this post on my laptop, my baby girl is crawling around on my lap, so I’m already breaking my own rule…)

Maybe you’re also busy writing New Year’s Resolutions (or maybe you’re busy swearing off resolutions forever).  As you look back on the last year and think about the events of 2016, perhaps you’ve added family members, like a new baby or an adopted child. Maybe 2016 has been a hard year for you, and you’ve lost a family member. You may know all too much how difficult the probate process can be when a family member does not leave instructions for his or her estate, either in the form of a Will or in a Trust.

While you plan out your 2017, consider discussing a difficult but necessary topic with aging parents or family members: End-of-Life Planning. Ask if your family members have special wishes they might like to share with you regarding handing down those memories to future generations. Let your family members know that you want to honor those wishes. You could ask whether your parents want a funeral or a memorial service. Ask what music they would like played and who they would like to attend.  Most importantly, ask how they would want their lives to be celebrated.

Having conversations about planning for death doesn’t need to happen only on a sad occasion.   In the comfort of a holiday meal, you may end up being pleasantly surprised at what you learn from your family members. You may also learn that more planning needs to be done – and that’s where Compton & Duling can help. If your 2017 resolutions include obtaining some estate planning advice, feel free to contact us at (703) 583-6060 to set up a time to talk with one of our attorneys, so that we can help make sure your family’s wishes are properly documented and legally preserved.

And if you see me on my iPhone instead of making eye contact in 2017, feel free to swat it right out of my mittened hand and tell me to go write someone a letter. 🙂

heatherHeather R. Steele, Esq. is a litigation partner at Compton & Duling, L.C.,where shecd-logo-finals-01 regularly escapes her three very loud young daughters, ages 6, 4, and 6 months, and enjoys a hot cup of coffee (or five) at a (relatively) quiet desk. She can be reached at or (703) 565-5151.



Disclaimers: This article is limited in scope and depth. We recommend retaining an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction because each particular legal situation is unique. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Further, this article is not intended to provide tax or financial planning advice, and we cannot guarantee results.